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Saudi Arabian regime ends visas for Swedes over human rights criticism

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Saudi King Salman sits next to Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah during the funeral of the late Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh, as new Saudi King Salman pledged continuity in energy and foreign policies on Friday and then quickly moved to appoint younger men as his heirs (REUTERS)

Saudi King Salman sits next to Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah during the funeral of the late Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh, as new Saudi King Salman pledged continuity in energy and foreign policies on Friday and then quickly moved to appoint younger men as his heirs (REUTERS)

Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom talks to journalists after a meeting with representatives of the Swedish business community at the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 19, 2015. Saudi Arabia has stopped issuing business visas to Swedish citizens, the Swedish foreign ministry said amid a deepening diplomatic row between the Nordic country and the Gulf.  AFP PHOTO / TT NEWS AGENCY / CLAUDIO BRESCIANI  +++ SWEDEN OUT +++Claudio Bresciani/AFP/Getty Images

Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom talks to journalists after a meeting with representatives of the Swedish business community at the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 19, 2015. Saudi Arabia has stopped issuing business visas to Swedish citizens, the Swedish foreign ministry said amid a deepening diplomatic row between the Nordic country and the Gulf. AFP PHOTO / TT NEWS AGENCY / CLAUDIO BRESCIANI +++ SWEDEN OUT +++Claudio Bresciani/AFP/Getty Images

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Saudi King Salman sits next to Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah during the funeral of the late Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh, as new Saudi King Salman pledged continuity in energy and foreign policies on Friday and then quickly moved to appoint younger men as his heirs (REUTERS)

Saudi Arabia will no longer issue business visas to Swedish nationals or renew the visas of those living within its borders, the country’s regime has said.

The move comes days after Sweden’s recently elected centre-left government criticised Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and ended a defence cooperation agreement between the two countries.

On Wednesday Saudi Arabia also recalled its ambassador in Stockholm in protest.

Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wallström last week described the flogging of liberal Saudi blogger Raif Badawi  as “medieval” in sharp contrast to the restrained responses from other countries.

The country is a huge customer for Swedish arms firms and bought $39 million of Swedish military equipment last year alone.

Saudi Arabia is an autocratic monarchy with a widely criticised human rights record.

Women’s rights are especially limited in the Kingdom, where they are prohibited by law from driving a car or travelling without a male relative. 

Beheading and flogging are still used as punishments under the country’s criminal code, which is based on Sharia law.

Criticism of Saudi Arabia is seen as off-limits by the governments of many Western countries because of its huge oil reserves and importance as a military ally of the Western powers.

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